UVA Global Podcast: Interview with Abigail Bradford and Charles Bradley


UVA Global Podcast: Interview with Abigail Bradford and Charles Bradley

Conversation with graduate students on their research on music and education in Greece
UVA Global Podcast Charles Bradley and Abigail Bradford graphic with headshots
Transcript of Interview with PhD Candidates Abigail Bradford and Charles Bradley

Emily Mellen  0:05  

Welcome to the fifth episode of our podcast series. I'm Emily Mellen and I'm here with Abigail Bradford, from the Art Department's program in Mediterranean Art and Archaeology, and Charles Bradley, from the Department of Education, Leadership Foundations and Policy in the School of Education and Human Development, about their CGII funded projects. Abigail, your research is centered on an ancient Greek musical style called “new music.” Can you tell us a bit about that? 


Abigail Bradford  0:29 

Absolutely. So, “new music” is a revolutionary genre of music that was developed in fifth-century BC Athens. So, we're talking about the same time as the Parthenon’s construction. What's really interesting about the reception of “new music,” and we know this largely from textual sources, is that the reception of “new music” was very politicized, very divided along political lines. Athens, in the fifth century BC, was still a very new democracy. Democracy had just been introduced. So, there's sort of a political schism in the city between younger, typically younger, more progressive democrats and more conservative aristocrats, who prefer the way that Athens had run before the introduction of democracy. And so we see “new music” as falling very much along these lines. We have younger, more progressive people really liking this new style of music. It's very avant garde, it's very different than more traditional music up to that point. And then the aristocrats, the conservatives, who, from the textual sources, call it noisy. They call it overly effeminate. They call it too foreign. But what we know about “new music” is that it was very technically complicated. And so we have, in fifth-century Athens, as a result of the “new music,” really the invention of musicianship as a profession in a way that we hadn't seen before. We even know from the textual sources that there are celebrities in ancient Athens. We have famous musicians. And this is something that we haven't seen before, this is something that “new music” is facilitating. So, as an archaeologist, I'm interested in the material remains of “new music.” And so what I'm researching are the visual depictions of musicians in pottery from the fifth century. So, we have some really wonderful representations of musicians playing a wide variety of instruments. I'm also interested in theater spaces, which is where these musical performances would have been happening, and that's what I'm going to be using this particular funding for. But in that description of “new music,” what I hope you hear is how thoroughly modern it seems, right? Just thinking about the past century, all these genres of music that we have encountered, like jazz, rock, rap, these are genres that when they were produced, were considered very transgressive and very polarized and genres that have over time become sort of integrated into the mainstream in a very similar way that “new music” was. We know by the fourth century it’s considered sort of the primary mode of music performance.


Emily Mellen  3:15  

Charles, you also work in Greece, but in a very different context. Can you tell us about your research on humanitarian parenting programs? 


Charles Bradley  3:22 

Yeah, sure, I'd be happy to. I am doing work in Greece, but I'll also be doing work in Jordan. So, I'm excited about that as well. So yeah, I study, my research is on early childhood development in emergencies, which is a field of humanitarian programming that focuses on young children aged zero to eight and their parents. So, historically, humanitarian programming is focused on kind of the core things that people need to survive. So, shelter, food, water, things like that. But as time has moved on, people have realized that education is also a really critical part of humanitarian programming. And so, since the 1990s, there's been an uptick in humanitarian programming that's focused on education. And actually, even since 2010, there's been a focus on young children, like early childhood education and parenting programs. So, it's like a relatively new program in humanitarian response to focus on these young children and their parents. And it's with good reason. Like right now, they estimate that there are approximately 35 million displaced children in the globe, and that every year 340,000 young children are born into displacement or refugee life. But, the problem is that, historically, there have been so many visions of parenting and child flourishing. A long time ago, children were seen more as what they call chattel, rather than cherubs, right, where children were kind of used on the farm and treated less as an intrinsic value themselves and more as something useful for the family as a whole. And even today, there is pluralism in the way that families think about what childhood flourishing and parenting should be. So, my research takes a look at these humanitarian programs and sees how these norms are being passed up and down what's called an aid chain, from donors, to international NGOs, to local NGOs. And I'm following, specifically, a group of humanitarian programmers called Refugee Trauma Initiative. They're based in Athens, in Greece. And they have an alternative vision of the way that parenting programs should be taking place. They tend to focus more on cultural dignity, connecting refugee mothers and fathers with other refugee mothers and fathers who have been experiencing the same type of displacement, and connecting young children who are experiencing displacement with other young children experiencing displacement. And so my question, my research questions, revolve around, how does an organization, with this somewhat counter-normative vision of parenting programs in humanitarian spaces, negotiate the space? Whether they can get funding? How do they frame their work? How do they talk to other organizations and funders about their programming? And do they still tap into the language of neuroparenting? Or do they tend to take a more extreme vision?


Emily Mellen 6:10 

Though you're both practitioners in the humanities, you're using different research methods, archeology and ethnography, to answer questions about culture in the past and present times. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your approaches?


Abigail Bradley 6:23 

So, I'm very fortunate in that I work in a particular subsection of archaeology called classical archaeology. So, this falls largely under the study of Greece and Rome. And what differentiates classical archaeology from other types of archaeology is that I have literary sources to work with as well, which is really fortunate, especially in my particular topic area, when I'm worried about the reception of particular events, right? So, the literary sources that I'm working with really helped paint a picture as to the political situation in fifth-century BC Athens, how people were understanding the genre. The issue, though, is that a lot of the people who are writing in this period are elites themselves. And so, we have to remember that they're coming at this from a political bent already. And so, the benefit of archaeology in that case is that the material that I'm working with is largely material produced by sort of more average people, you know, that pottery, in particular, was sort of like a… pottery sort of fell into a lower social status than people who, like the philosophers, scholars, who were writing in this period. So, I'm very fortunate that I'm able to blend the two and sort of come to this middle ground. But of course, with archaeology, we're working with very selective evidence. And so sometimes it's the best, most beautiful pieces that are preserved because they were of the most value. A lot of times those are deposited in graves and graves produce some of the best archaeological evidence that we have today. And so, I love archaeology because you can tell so much about people based on what they leave behind, the stuff that they accumulate. But of course, one of the issues is just that we don't have it all. You know, we have a very, very small fraction of the materials that are being produced. So, certainly some benefits and some drawbacks.


Mellen  8:19



Charles Bradley  8:20  

Yeah, so I'm going to be doing ethnographic observations, what we call ethnographic policy, ethnographic observations of these policy spaces, including within the organization Refugee Trauma Initiative that I mentioned earlier, and their interactions with kind of larger policy drivers like UNICEF, Lego Foundation, and other funders of early childhood programming. So, I think one of the key strengths of ethnography is that you can observe people in their daily milieu of the way that they're interacting with each other and the kind of implicit assumptions that they bring to the table when they're discussing policy and programs in early childhood development in emergencies. And the other thing is that if I'm really trying to explore, one might ask, if I'm really trying to explore the normative constructions of these experts, why don't I just ask them, right? Why can't I just interview them and say, “Hey, you know, what, why do you believe this? What's driving that?” But the problem is that sometimes all of us have difficulty putting into words our beliefs and our values. And rather, they can also be enacted in ways that are contradictory to the way that we talk about our values. So, ethnography really allows me to kind of triangulate the way that experts in humanitarian spaces talk about young children and childhood flourishing. And then how they actually enact that in policy and programming. A weakness, I find, with ethnography is that it takes a long time, right? Its attention to context is powerful. But at the same time, you have to spend a lot of time in those contexts to understand what you're analyzing and to couch your analysis within the context that you live in. So, that's why I have to spend 12 months abroad for my fieldwork, in Greece and Jordan. But, it's a weakness and a strength to be able to contextualize your research, but also spend a lot of time there and a lot of mental preparation to be there as well. 


Emily Mellen  10:09  

Absolutely. So, how has the CGII funding changed the future of your projects? What will it allow you to do?


Charles Bradley  10:17

It has enabled my project completely. The CGII funding has allowed me to get to Greece and allowed me to rent an apartment and get started there, which is super important. And yeah, it's also allowed me to have access to a whole bunch of archival documents that I need, that have paywalls, and allow me to get in there. So yeah, honestly, without the funding, this project wouldn't have gotten off the ground. So, I'm super thankful.


Abigail Bradford  10:44  

I'm in exactly the same boat. I'm able to go to Greece for the first time in two years now. I'm very, very eager to get back over there. So, with funding from CGII, I am going to be able to travel to a couple of different theaters in Greece, primarily based in Athens, of course, because Athens is where this genre is being produced and performed, primarily, to see ways that physical spaces are responding to changes in musical performance. I was actually also able to acquire an ancient instrument, a woodwind called the aulos, that I'm actively learning and I'm very, very bad at it. It's an incredibly difficult instrument to learn. But I'm hoping to be able to actually play the instrument in these spaces. And again, with support from CGII, to measure the acoustics, also, of the spaces to see, with this particular instrument, how the spaces are reacting to that sound.


Emily Mellen  11:38  

That's so exciting. We're really looking forward to hearing how the future of your projects go and thank you for talking with me today.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai